21 April 2013
Here are the things I’ve added in the past week. Added to the list of things that scare me:
• Backpacks: Who knows whether a pressure cooker might not be inside?
• Pressure cookers: I always thought they were dangerous and got rid of mine long ago. But HOW dangerous they are I only learned this past week.
• Boston Marathon: Even in the past I watched it at most on television. But since last Monday there are surely also other anxious persons who will avoid the Boston Marathon from now on. And all other marathons too. And for that matter, major events and mass gatherings of every sort.
• Boston: It’s not been so long since this town lost its fixed association with the “Boston Strangler.” Then came the suicide attackers of 9/11, who started out from Boston on their deadly flights. Now Boston has gained a new association and dimension of fear, along with Newtown, Aurora, Utoya (Norway), Winnenden, Erfurt (school shootings in Germany), Columbine.
The following points have been on my list for a long while. But the events of the last week have moved them up in order of priority:
• U.S.A.: I would not voluntarily travel to Iraq, Syria or other “crisis regions.” But gun-riddled America is also a threat to life and limb. Every day 82 persons die in the U.S. by gunshot violence. That includes suicides, a fact which is hardly consoling. Nonetheless, the Democratically controlled Senate failed this week to pass a compromise bill that would have modestly strengthened national gun control measures.
• Islamist extremists: They scare me, just as violence-prone Christian fundamentalists, right-wing hate groups and left-wing extremists do. Only the latter have not been in the spotlight in the last week.
Up to this point many people can probably follow me. I have no fear of immigrants or Muslims, but that is not the case at the moment in the U.S., where many Muslims feel justifiable fear of a backlash. Moreover, the hoped-for liberalization of U.S. immigration policy, which had been on track for bipartisan support in the Senate, has now been called into question. After all, the Boston bombers were immigrants. – Always these terrible generalizations!
Apropos generalizations: Right at the top of my list, of course, are men. Everyone knows that the greatest threat of violence comes from men, but one dare not say it aloud for fear of accusations of “unacceptable generalization” or “manhating.”
That brings me back to the beginning, to the pressure cookers. Pressure cookers are not in themselves dangerous, but mostly useful, and reveal their deadly potential only when they are misused, similar to other kitchen aids, for example knives or frying pans. It’s just the same with men. Often they are helpful, even a blessing. And in Boston many, many men, just like many women, ran to help the injured, even under life-threatening conditions. Not to mention the hunt for the presumed terrorists: primarily male actors in the face of danger.
But: How does it happen that acts of terror and mass murder, like acts of violence in general, are almost exclusively carried out by males? And even more importantly: why is it that this obvious question is so rarely asked? If we are not allowed even to raise the issue we will never progress – and must perhaps prepare for a state of permanent lock-down or house arrest such as that endured by panicked residents of Boston, because of 19-year-old, out-of-control youths. But not even from those since liberated Bostonians do I hear the obvious question: what can we do against male violence?
Apropos house arrest: When the Yorkshire Ripper was on the loose between 1975 and 1980, the police advised the women of Yorkshire to stay at home in the evening for their own safety. “Why us?,” responded the women. “Let the men stay home; then we’ll be safe when we go out.”
But we’re not safe at home, too many women must add nowadays. Even and especially at home, pressure cookers can do devastating harm.
(trans.: Joey Horsley)
3 November 2012
On November 10 the 16 German “Luther Cities” will decide who should receive their annual award “Das unerschrockene Wort“ (The Bold, Fearless Word), or Luther Prize, to be presented in April 2013. Luther City Wittenberg has nominated the heroic Russian political activists Pussy Riot for the award. But more than a few are opposed to the nomination, and no one more than the prominent theologian Friedrich Schorlemmer, previously a pastor and pro-democracy activist in the GDR and now a publicist.
Schorlemmer and those who share his views reject the nomination because they find Pussy Riot’s performances “in poor taste” and “not worthy of a prize.” These aesthetes, lacking in feminist sensibility, clearly have had no experience dealing with feminist forms of protest, which are regularly condemned by the rest of the population as being “in poor taste.” For example, there was the “poor taste” of declaring publicly that one had had an abortion in the French and German newsmagazine campaigns of the early 1970’s. Or the “poor taste” exhibited internationally in last year’s SlutWalks, or by the Feme activists of Ukraine, who screamed out their demands with breasts bared. The very act of a woman’s opening her mouth seems in poor taste to many men. Mulier taceat in ecclesia! Let woman be silent in the church/community! The mere sight of her can be an offensive provocation, so why not let her disappear beneath a burkha? And when a woman menstruates, it’s not merely poor taste but impure. Yes, woman as such is in poor taste!
In opposition to Schorlemmer et al., those in favor of honoring Pussy Riot with the Luther Prize have presented a detailed letter of protest. In it they argue, for example:
With their spirited artistic campaign and performances the young women have succeeded like no one before them in calling the world’s attention to the authoritarian, totalitarian tendencies of Putin’s Russia. Their courageous stand for democracy in Russia during their humiliating show-trial demands our highest respect. In their thoughtful trial statements, delivered from inside cages, but also in intelligent interviews, they have demonstrated that they are truly women of “the bold, fearless word.”
How true! I encourage all those of a political and feminist mind to read the entire letter of protest (in German).
Since by now the most essential elements of this case have been reported and analyzed by more authoritative sources, I would like to consider a side aspect that has been largely neglected: the moola. Or, to use a term in better taste: the monetary endowment of the prize.
It is only through Pussy Riot that I learned of the existence of the prize for “The Bold, Fearless Word,” awarded by the Luther Cities every two years. That there are more than one or two Luther Cities (Wittenberg and Eisleben, his birthplace) was also news to me. At present there are 16 Luther Cities, and who knows how many more little towns might still discover that Luther once spent a night there.
The more Luther Cities there are, the less each has to cough up for the Luther Prize. At present 16 cities contribute to a total of 10,000 euros, making 625 euros each, less than the cost of a single iPhone.
“Geiz ist geil” (thrifty is nifty), even for Luther Cities. But at the same time, after all, Luther’s Bible proclaims, “God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
And because of this embarrassingly petty sum this even more embarrassing commotion is now being made. Are they nuts?
To be sure, the symbolic value of such a prize is high, and for this reason the Pussy Riot activists should absolutely receive the Luther award. The more such prizes the better – the sooner might the women be released from prison. According to Amnesty International, Russian penal camps are brutal and inhumane.
“As far as conditions in the penal camp are concerned,” lamented one former inmate recently, sounding like an excerpt from The Gulag Archipelago, “the atmosphere is unbearable. Everywhere capriciousness and arbitrary violence. If you ever get out of here alive you’re fatally ill, physically and mentally.” Source here
But it would nonetheless be a good and useful thing if the cash were right as well as the symbolism, if the high symbolic value of this prize were not counteracted by its puniness. For the Pussy Riot activists will not fare well in the penal camp. The Russian government spends the equivalent of 1 euro per day on each prisoner. This amount won’t pay for heating, and the Russian winter is cold.
The Luther Prize will not be awarded until spring. By then Pussy Riot can already have frozen.
So everyone should give generously; here’s the best web site: http://freepussyriot.org/help
And write to the Luther Cities that they should please increase the amount of their prize appropriately. Or is the entire project nothing but a cheap PR effort to enhance the image of ridiculous “Luther Cities,” to whom “The Bold, Fearless Word” is literally worth almost nothing?
(trans. Joey Horsley)
# | Luise F. Pusch on 3 November 2012 at 12:05 PM •
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6 August 2012
It’s the height of campaign season in the USA, and not only the presidency but the entire House of Representatives and one third of the Senate seats are up for grabs. One of the most closely watched races is the competition for one of the two Senate seats from Massachusetts. Ted Kennedy had held it for almost half a century before he died; then, thanks to massive financial support from business interests, the Republican Scott Brown won it in an upset election in 2010. Now the Democrats are aiming to reclaim “their” seat and have nominated a popular, respected and highly qualified candidate: Elizabeth Warren, Harvard law professor, financial expert and the one of the harshest critics of Wall Street and its deceptive machinations. In the wake of the 2008 crash Warren campaigned for the creation of a new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and served as a Special Advisor to the President to oversee its implementation (2010-2011).
It’s no surprise that almost no one is hated by Republicans as much as Warren; she ranks right behind Obama on their blacklist. And she is targeted not only by the massive Republican financing behind Scott Brown, but also by a campaign of slander and systematic defamation such as was devastatingly deployed by the “swift-boaters” in 2004 against John Kerry, costing him his bid to deny George W. Bush a second term.
Especially interesting to me as a linguist is the form of the particular venom against Elizabeth Warren. The 63-year-old Warren is divorced and remarried; she has two children and three grandchildren. For months her conservative attackers have been referring to her as “Granny Warren.”
By way of comparison: Mitt Romney is 65 years old, has five sons and 18 grandchildren. But no one has thought to call him “Grampa Romney.” He regards himself as a man in the prime of life and not as a “senior” or old man – and is presented as such. Perhaps, since the other side insists on “Granny Warren,” the Democrats should finally respond in kind and speak exclusively of “Gramps Romney.”
Unfortunately, however, the Democrats have shown themselves slow to employ linguistic or rhetorical techniques to defend their interests. George Lakoff first demonstrated that lack – and strongly lamented it – in his fascinating book Moral Politics: What Conservatives Know That Liberals Don’t (1997). By contrast, the Republicans are masters of linguistic denigration and deception:
In their cleverly catchy glossary, the complex achievement of health care reform is contemptuously dubbed “Obamacare.” The estate tax is called a “death tax.” The movement against abortion rights calls itself “pro-life,” and the idea of providing end-of-life counselling to patients and their families is condemned as “bureaucratic death panels.” Such terms are invoked repeatedly and ubiquitously, from the Senate floor to conservative talk shows; they become an almost unchallengeable part of the political discourse and shape the public perception of issues and persons.
The Tea Party, the right-wing segment of the Republican Party, opposes the federal government as such and condemns federal regulations on principle as paternalistic control by a “nanny-state.” In the eyes of these conservative politicians the responsible adult citizen has no need of a state at all (except perhaps for national defense). It doesn’t seem to occur to them that they’re arguing for the abolition of their own jobs.
“Granny” and “nanny” – it’s not surprising that two terms for women that have to do with our supposedly most “innate” tasks of bearing and raising children should be co-opted and redefined by the Republicans as abhorrent bogeys aimed at deterring the electorate from voting for Democrats. All respect to grannies and nannies, but politics is man’s business! This crude formula is what their linguistic virtuosity finally all boils down to.
In conclusion: Grampa Romney is fully seven months older than Hillary Clinton. Should he win, may the Goddess prevent it, the hale and hearty old man will certainly try at 69 for a second term. If so, then we hope young Hillary will run against him; we’ve been waiting 20 years now – in 1992 we were already chanting, “Hillary in 96!” If Obama wins, we hope Hillary will replace him in four years. After all, the US-Americans need a “Mutti” (Mommy) too! Since they can’t have Angela, Hillary would be a terrific substitute. And if Chelsea cooperates, Hillary could even be a granny by then and accomplish all sorts of useful things with Supergrannies Pelosi and Warren in a wonderful Granny-State!
(translated and adapted for a US audience by Joey Horsley)
11 August 2011
Slutwalks everywhere; here in Boston there was one back in May, and on August 13, with typical German thoroughness, they’re occurring all over the Federal Republic in Hamburg, Cologne, Hannover, Berlin, Leipzig, Frankfurt, Freiburg, Munich, Passau und in the Ruhr region. More information here. And in greater detail here for all the Slutwalks in Germany on August 13.
I am thrilled that we women are once again “in movement,” that we’re getting out in the fresh air and making lots of vitamin D for the winter – all the more of it the less we have on! Terrific that we’re finally marching again, in droves, for something that is fundamentally our own: Slutwalks protest against intolerable male sexual terror and violence. The fact that we’ve found a way to bring out all the more media the more we take off – I find that brilliant. We’re beating them at their own game, catching them in their own nets.
I’m all for the Slutwalks, even though I’m not going on them, since I’m in Boston now, and when the Slutwalk took place here I was in Hannover and had never heard of a Slutwalk.
But a nice Slutwalk is just the thing in the summer. Joey and I used to go for our daily power walk in the Eilenriede (Hannover) or Franklin Park (Boston). Now we prefer to call it our Slutwalk. It’s shorter and more up-to-date and suits our age better (power walking is too strenuous), as well as our casual, if not sloppy, attire. “Come on, Sluttie, let’s go,” Joey said yesterday, and I, once a proud prude, just laughed and “bin mitgewalkt” (went walking with her.)
This hybrid expression brings me to my actual topic – this is a language blog, after all. True, the word Schlampenmarsch (march of the slobs) is a false translation, but an effective one. Slut would be better translated as Fotze; Schlampe (slob, slovenly person, loose woman) is much less aggressive than slut. Slut sounds like slit (“pussy,” “cunt”). Hence the aversion of many US feminists to “putting on” this hateful label.
And a walk in German is really not a march, but a “Gang”. But the German word Gang is very limited in its usage. Sure, we have the Fußgängerin (pedestrian, f.) and Fußgänger (pedestrian, m.), but no Fußgang (foot walk?!?) The Slut Walk was presumably modeled on perp walk, like the one Strauss-Kahn recently underwent, a sort of gauntlet-run for a perpetrator. But Schlampenlauf (“slob run”) wouldn’t work either, since nobody’s running, just walking. But they’re also not strolling (spazierengehen), so we can’t say Spaziergang for walk. It would be much too long anyway.
Now let’s turn to the advantages of this false translation: the combination of the sloppy Schlampe with the military Marsch is as striking as it is attractive: the Schlampe becomes more orderly and the Marsch less so – to the advantage of both.
Most likely the German walkers too will use the word Slutwalk, while the Schlampenmarsch will eke out a secondary existence in its shadow.
But if the original Slutwalk calls forth more and more variants, they’ll certainly also return to the Schlampen. For example, I can well imagine a Schlampenprozession in honor of the Urschlampe (original loose woman) Mary Magdalene. Or a BlumenSchlampenKorso (flower slut-parade) – what is more slutty than a flower, after all, boldly displaying its genitalia to all viewers?
Men would be allowed to participate as Schlampi (plural of Schlampus). Not to forget the Schampus (champagne) for all the thirsty Schlampen – so that everyone can schlampampen (pig out) together.
And Schlumpi (Lumpi is a common German dog’s name), with its slutty, sloppy sexual and excretory behavior, can also come along. Then we wouldn’t have to go out at night any more to slutwalk the dog.
Thanks to Helke Sander for recalling FEMEN, the mother of all slutwalks, to my attention. I had forgotten all about the feminist organization from Ukraine. As long as three years ago the courageous women from Kiev were convinced that feminist demands only gained attention when proclaimed by women with bosoms bared. Unfortunately, it seems they were right. Here is a video about their activism.
(Trans. Joey Horsley)
# | Luise F. Pusch on 11 August 2011 at 10:57 PM •
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7 August 2011
German insiders in the field of information technology call their computers “Rechner” (calculators, computers). “You have to shut down your “Rechner” and reboot” – that’s how the initiated talk. Although I’ve owned a computer since 1983 (by now I’m on my 10th at least), it’s only recently, since I’ve read Julie des Jardins’ book on the ”Hidden History of Women in Science,” that I realize that computer originally referred to a profession: A writer writes, a computer computes, a worker works.
As I’ve learned from des Jardins’ book, professional calculating in the days before computers was by and large a female activity. In the field of astronomy, for example, endless hours of dreary computation were required – and this job was assigned to women. Men were too important for that; they were in charge of the higher order (and higher-paid) activities of theorizing about and interpreting the computed data.
The occasional woman was able to emerge from the sea of numbers and get a whiff of theoretical air. She was permitted to make her epochal contribution to astronomy – as in the cases of Annie Jump Cannon, Williamina Fleming and Henrietta Leavitt – only to be then quickly shooed back to the entry-level tasks of counting and calculating.
Since “computers” were originally women, shouldn’t the techies actually be talking about their “Rechnerinnen” (the feminine form of “Rechner”) to honor a female tradition and preserve the historical memory of an oppressive practice?
Perhaps. On the other hand, there’s plenty to be said for leaving this tradition behind for good and heading off to new shores instead. Of course, it is always a good idea to “feminize” our environment. And with that in mind I proposed, way back in 1984, that we should name the marvelous new tool the Computa (German Compute).
Is there more room for women in the higher reaches of astronomy and the other sciences, now that computational work has been delegated to the calculating machines and computas? – Not really, as we know.
Anybody who still believes that science is primarily concerned with objective truth and gaining knowledge should read des Jardins’ book. In fact, science is much more interested in fame, honor and profit – for oneself, the corporation, the university or the nation. Female competition merely gets in the way (and besides, who would then take on all the computational work, let alone the housework?) It’s a matter of mastering nature, which is often conceived as female. It doesn’t befit a woman to master nature; she is more likely to be seen as nature herself, the physical body, while man is the mind who tames it.
These cultural patterns are rooted more deeply within us than we would like to admit. Recent studies have shown that women who apply for graduate scholarships must achieve at – at least – five times the level of men in order to be perceived as equally qualified (des Jardins 292). To overcome this injustice, des Jardins calls in her conclusion for the following (292):
As more women enter science institutions, we cannot be content with statistics alone. We must ensure that the presumptions made, questions asked, and ends sought in these institutions reflect a more egalitarian, depolarized culture than that which has characterized most twentieth-century science. Until then, the scientist conjured in the American mind will be male, and the woman scientist an oxymoron, one who suffers conspicuousness and invisibility at once.
Speaking of invisibility: in May German President Wulff acknowledged the winners of this year’s competition “Jugend forscht” (Youth Does Scientific Research): three young men.
How embarrassing – but not atypical for the scientific and intellectual culture of Germany. When I had to endure my habilitation examination (oral exam on one’s advanced post-doctoral research, required for title of professor) in 1978 at the so-called Reform-University of Constance, some 60 academic luminaries sat in judgment over me, all men except for Senta Trömel-Plötz, herself just having gained habilitation and thereby admitted to the hallowed inner circle. I entered as though to an execution and barely survived the experience: for I, a linguist, had foolishly formulated my ideas so that they could also be understood by the scholars from the fields of philosophy, history and literary studies – and that seemed highly suspicious to them. In the wider world, thank goodness, things are less provincial: In July the first Google Science Fair was concluded, in which over 10,000 young people from 90 countries took part.
In each of the three age-groups the first prize was awarded to a young woman. The grand prize went to the 17-year-old Shree Bose (in photo, center), whose research involves ovarian cancer. According to Shree, all the male professors she approached with the request to work in their lab refused. A woman professor, however, responded positively ….
(More information here.) An important element in this was surely the fact that the 12-member jury included 5 women. By contrast, in the regional competition Jugend forscht: Sachsen (Youth Does Science: Saxony) the jury consisted of 21 men and 3 women – in other German Federal States the situation was no doubt similar.
(Thanks go to Senta Trömel-Plötz for recommending Julie des Jardins’ The Madame Curie Complex: The Hidden History of Women in Science. (2010)).
Trans. Joey Horsley
More columns by Luise F. Pusch can be found here. Each volume contains around 50 columns and costs 9.90 EUR:
# | Luise F. Pusch on 7 August 2011 at 06:20 PM •
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24 July 2011
The “Norwegian Massacre”: the media seem to have agreed on this term. Not a “rampage” such as occurred in Winnenden – the Norwegian killer proceeded with far too much premeditation and lengthy planning for that; through his diversionary tactic of the bomb near the seat of government he focused the attention of the entire police force on the center of Oslo – so that he could then, completely undisturbed for 90 minutes, gun down 68 young people on the holiday island.
I’m not aware of any massacre in which men were not the perpetrators (a virtually endless list of them can be found here). And I know of no massacre which has brought about any public reflection concerning this male role, except by feminists, who are then defamed as “femi-nazis” and accused of “outrageous generalizing.”
But Norway is a progressive country and rather advanced in feminist terms. Perhaps now, emanating from Norway, some thinking might finally begin about the “gender aspect” of this and all other massacres. If that were to happen we might not be left simply with the paralysis of shock, grief and revulsion, but perhaps even with hope for change.
The etymology of the German word Massaker (from French massacre) is explained in quite different ways by the various lexica. Some say the origin is unknown (Duden Etymological Dictionary). Others connect it to metzeln, Metzger (to slaughter, the butcher –Wiktionary English). Still others with mallet (hammer – dictionary.com). Since no one seems to know for sure, I’d like to offer a few feminist speculations as to the origin of the word.
Striking (but just as strikingly never considered in the etymological articles) is the morpheme -sacre (sacred, sanctified, sacrifice), as in sacrament, sacred music, sacrilege. We know it from Sacré Coeur, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on Montmartre (the hill of martyrs!), from Stravinsky’s Sacre du Printemps (Rites of Spring). The ballet depicts the ritual sacrifice of a virgin (!) in pagan Russia. The Old Testament begins with a fratricide (Cain and Abel) and the New Testament with the massacre of all boys under two, the Bethlehem “massacre of the innocents.”
In “Christian” religious wars and crusades the followers of different faiths massacred each other with equal fanaticism. In the age of the witch persecutions the Christian Church spread fear and terror, sacrificing tens of thousands of innocent women and men on the altar of the “true faith.”* The Aztecs offered human sacrifices to their sun god. In a modern variety of so-called holy war (jihad) suicide-bombers sacrifice themselves and as many others as possible to the greater glory of Allah. The mass murderer of Oslo and Utøya presented himself on the Internet as a far-right radical and Christian fundamentalist.
An unholy alliance exists between religions with a male god at their center and massacres in “sacred” service to their imperious deity. This god demands sacrifice. Believers must die for him (as martyrs) – not to mention unbelievers. Yes, Jesus preached a gospel of love, but he didn’t prevail; rather, in the course of time his message was twisted into its opposite.
All these male religions leave an endless broad trail of blood through the millennia. It is time to reject them and follow either no religion or one with loving goddesses, in accordance with the old feminist sayings: “God is coming, and is she pissed!” and “I’ve seen God, and guess what - She’s black.“ Maybe that won’t help either, but they deserve a chance. Male self-deification with the help of patriarchal gods, at any rate, has proven again and again to lead directly into the inferno.
Postscript on 7/25/2011: See the article by Michelle Goldberg, “Norway Killer’s Hatred of Women,” The Daily Beast, July 24, 2011. Goldberg analyzes the killer’s 1500-page manifesto, in which he connects his hatred of women and in particular feminists to his right-wing anti-Islamic ideology.
Postscript on 7/27/2011: Important link: Amy Goodman of Democracy Now talking to Jeff Sharlet about Breivik’s right-wing extremism, xenophobia, and hatred of feminism.
Trans. Joey Horsley
*On the topic of witch persecutions FemBio recommends:
Joey Horsley. “Weise Frauen, Hebammen und die europäische Hexenverfolgung.” In Tönnies-Forum 3/92 1. Jg. (1992): 26-42 (PDF-Datei)
(updated and shortened version of:
• Ritta Jo Horsley and Richard A. Horsley. “On the Trail of the ‘Witches’: Wise Women, Midwives and the European Witch Craze.” Women in German Yearbook 3. Marianne Burkhard and Edith Waldstein, eds. University Press of America, 1986. 1-28.
6 February 2011
Six hours after I had put this text online Sarah Horsley called my attention to a 2-hour video broadcast about Egypt on the “Democracy Now” web site. Approximately 90 minutes into the broadcast we are shown an extraordinary video made by the young Egyptian woman Asmaa Mahfouz and first circulated on Facebook on January 18. She calls on all Egyptian women and men to congregate in Tahrir Square on January 25 and demonstrate for their rights. Amy Goodman of “Democracy Now” comments that this video, which spread virally through all the media, is generally regarded as the catalyst for the Egyptian revolution. Many of those who went to Tahrir Square on January 25 did so because of Asmaa Mahfouz’ call for a revolution.
Here is the link to Asmaa Mahfouz’s appeal. It begins at approximately the 90th minute.
Could Asmaa Mahfouz be related to fellow Egyptian Nagib Mahfouz, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1988?
Why haven’t we heard anything about her in the malestream media until now?
Here is the link to an interview with the well-known journalist Mona Eltahawy concerning the role of Egyptian women in the resistance against the regime.
128 photos showing women of the Egyptian Revolution “whose voices and faces were hidden from the public eye during the first days of the revolution”.
This picture from the New York Times is captioned: “Hundreds of thousands of people packed Tahrir Square on Friday.”
Is “the Egyptian people” made up only of men? Among these hundreds of thousands of “people” I can’t make out a single woman. And no or only very few women are to be seen in the many other images that reach us from Egypt. But the world keeps talking about the uprising or revolution of the Egyptian people, about a democracy movement. What a case of false advertising! Demos (Greek) means “the people.” What we have here is at best a demi-cracy movement (from French demi “half”).
The driving force of the unrest are young men, we hear. Men without work or the chance to have a decent life. If the Egyptian girls have not all been aborted or murdered this characterization should apply to just as many young women: unemployed and without opportunities. Why aren’t they in the streets? The men we get to see in the Western media were born of women, after all, who moreover have given birth to girls as well. Where are all these women and girls?
But most disturbing is the fact that the blatant absence of women is almost never commented on in the nonstop reporting of the Western media about the uprisings in Egypt. It is reminiscent of how most people in the Western world also hardly notice the glaring absence of women in virtually all positions of power.
Once again, the one (German) exception is Alice Schwarzer. She speaks out and warns as usual against the naïve revolution-infatuation of the West. She reminds us of Iran: how 32 years ago a hated dictator was also overthrown by the people, and how the Islamists then established their much more terrible theocracy. Have we already forgotten Marjane Satrapi’s film “Persepolis,” which takes precisely this perversion of the Iranian revolution as its theme?
Schwarzer cautions that this danger has returned – and condemns the selective blindness of Western reporting that speaks of “democracy movement” while half the population is missing or kept from participating. But this “false advertising” should be familiar to us. In ancient Greece, often referred to as the “cradle of democracy,” only very few, privileged males were allowed to participate. And Switzerland, where women did not gain the right to vote until 1971, is viewed by many as the “mother land of democracy.”
It is common knowledge that Egyptian women are subject to unbearable sexual harassment and molestation when out in public. And we should not forget that almost 100% of Egyptian women are the victims of genital mutilation (Source: Wikipedia –English).
During the French Revolution of 1789 and in the “peaceful” revolution of the Eastern bloc 200 years later women were just as actively involved as men. True, once these revolutions had succeeded, the women were shoved aside by slogans of “Freedom, Equality, Brotherhood” and by “expert roundtables” made up exclusively of men. Nonetheless, we do now have a woman Chancellor precisely from the former Eastern bloc.
In the Egyptian demi-cracy movement, by contrast, women have been few and far between from the outset. And if the revolution succeeds they may perhaps completely disappear behind the confining walls of the family, into the private sphere.
Given its name, the Muslim Brotherhood is not particularly confidence-inspiring either. And the military is a further force to be reckoned with. Any women there? I haven’t noticed one.
In spite of all that: Let’s follow the example of the young Egyptian demonstrators, male or not. If just one or two million of them can topple an old Mubarak, imagine what the millions and millions of women the world over could achieve if we poured into the streets everywhere to claim our rights once and for all!
(Trans. Joey Horsley)
# | Luise F. Pusch on 6 February 2011 at 03:49 PM •
23 July 2010
Last night we went to the movies with two girlfriends and saw “The Kids Are All Right.” The film is all the rage right now in the U.S. and is the subject of lively discussion; after all, director Lisa Cholodenko has tackled the previously taboo subject of “lesbian mothers with children from the sperm bank” for the first time. In the media you hear nothing but praise, and the opening take is impressive: with 1.8 million dollars the film ranks in 12th place. It garnered the Teddy Award in February at the Berlin Film Festival and is said to have been the most discussed contribution to the Sundance Festival.
All very encouraging for a lesbian film; we can’t recall ever having heard anything like this before. But: Is this really a lesbian film at all, we asked ourselves in consternation, heading for the exit.
The film is marketed as being “just about a family,” but of course a modern one: the family isn’t composed of Mom and Dad and two kids, but, wow, of two moms with kids. Then, prompted by the curiosity of the teenaged kids, the previously anonymous “Donor-Dad” appears and introduces both excitement and conflict into the daily routine.
The film attempts to please everyone, even lesbians, but most of all men, whether gay or straight. The massive man sitting in front of me roared with laughter throughout the film! And it is indeed something to roar about, the way the two lesbian moms watch a gay male porn video to get turned on. And they have a pink dildo in their bed-table drawer.
I don’t know, maybe I’m old-fashioned – but I would definitely be turned off by either the male porn or the dildo. We attributed this peculiar directorial inspiration to Stuart Blumberg, who wrote the screenplay together with Lisa Cholodenko. You learn a life-lesson from this little scene, namely: lesbian sex is awkward and hard work. While Jules (Julianne Moore), invisible under the gently heaving comforter, works away at Nic (Annette Bening) until she resurfaces just before suffocating, Nic is watching her porn video, expressionless – apparently neither activity brings her to orgasm.
The audience is subjected to the strenuous and embarrassing sex life of the two women only once and briefly; it is compensated for this by plenty of hetero sex, with the sperm donor Paul (Mark Ruffalo) as an inexhaustible wellspring of energy. First he indulges at length and with abandon with a gorgeous young Ethiopian, then gets involved with Jules, who couldn’t resist his homemade pie and throws herself at him. Just why the lesbian mom Jules is so crazy about sex with Paul is a mystery even to herself (though probably not to the marketing strategist). And, after repeated vigorous workouts, she is in fact truly sorry. But before that happens the poor lesbian moviegoer must witness how Jules practically faints in worshipful enthusiasm at the sight of Paul’s erect penis (kept from our sight), while he receives her hysterical homage with a gentle, almost shy smile. Presumably we owe this scene too – a classic male fantasy – to the male screenplay writer, who thereby contributed definitively to the film’s box-office success.
So Paul the sperm donor is an appealing guy – even I liked him. While Nic is bitchy and controlling and on top of that can drink too much, and Jules practically loses it in her lust for Paul, he shows himself to be calm and caring in every situation – the ultimate sympathetic character. One can’t even blame him for disturbing the happy lesbian marriage; how is a normally constructed male supposed to react, after all, when a beautiful woman passionately throws herself at him?
Our straight friends didn’t like the film: too many sex scenes with the guy, unrealistic, too many clichés, too much annoying male grunting in the audience – that was roughly their verdict. After all, they had wanted to see a “different” film and instead found themselves subjected to the same old heterosexual wrestling match in close-up. Not at all pleasant!
Joey and I were more merciful. The acting is excellent throughout, and the film is worth seeing on that score alone. There are many comic, moving, and intelligent scenes and moments, which (we hope) can be credited to the female director and screenplay writer.
But the central message of the film, that lesbian sex is dreary and hetero sex the best thing on earth, is simply absurd.
Rather, the deep insight of Erma Bombeck still holds sway: “I haven’t trusted polls since I read that 62% of women had affairs during their lunch hour. I’ve never met a woman in my life who would give up lunch for sex.”
And she wasn’t referring to lesbian sex.
(Thanks to Joey Horsley for the Bombeck quote.)
Trans. Joey Horsley
# | Luise F. Pusch on 23 July 2010 at 08:26 PM •
24 January 2009
At our Christmas get-together I asked my brother and my sister-in-law: “So, what do you know about Obama’s mother?” – “His father was Black and came from Kenya, and she was white and died of cancer,” was their answer, more or less. “Why do you ask?”
“Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham Soetoro, was an anthropologist and wrote an 800-page long dissertation. Moreover, she was one of the earliest campaigners for micro-credits for women.” They hadn’t heard any of this before I told them, only again and again the sad story of her fight against American medical insurance providers before her early death from cancer – and how that had motivated Obama to work for reform of the US health care system.
I too had only learned more about her by chance, from an anthropologist friend who had campaigned actively for Obama, while Joey and I were of course Hillary-supporters. To console us for the fact that she wasn’t nominated, and at the same time do some advertising for his own field, he sent us an article by his colleage Ruth Behar on the anthropological origins of the luminous Obama, implanted by his mother the anthropologist.
Obama about his mother: “She was the dominant figure in my formative years… The values she taught me continue to be my touchstone when it comes to how I go about the world of politics.”
During this past year I’ve occupied myself intensively with the origins of anthropology, in particular with the lovers Ruth Benedict (1887-1948) and Margaret Mead (1901-1978). Their fruitful collaboration in the 1930’s and 40’s gave us nothing less than the theoretical bases for overcoming racism, homophobia (Benedict) and sexism (Mead).
Fully in the spirit of their fine convictions, Obama’s mother did something in the 1960’s that was outrageous for the time and for American middle-class culture: she married a Black African, and after he abandoned the family she married an Indonesian, the father of Obama’s half-sister Maya Soetoro-Ng.
The academic teacher and mentor of Benedict and Mead was Franz Boas, father of modern anthropology. The German Jew Boas (1858-1942) had already left Germany in the 1880’s out of disgust at the anti-semitism of the Kaiserreich, and when Hitler came to power the 75-year-old did everything he could to warn the world of Hitler’s deadly intentions and to support his persecuted Jewish compatriots.
To sum up: Boas, Benedict and Mead founded modern cultural anthropology. Obama’s mother raised him in the spirit of this cutural anthropology: she taught him respect for other cultures, readiness to defend the weak, empathy, the ability to listen, curiosity, openness for the Other and the striving – so typical for Obama – to transcend rather than to harden differences. Thus Obama’s world-embracing and unifying charisma can ultimately be traced back to a German Jew in exile and his brilliant students Benedict and Mead, two American lesbians.
Jewish, Black, female, lesbian – all the world’s marks of inferiority stand behind and inspire the bearer of hope Obama. Peacefully united and proud, they lie at the source of his moral and intellectual foundations.
As all the world could see, America has just taken a giant step toward overcoming racism. Homophobia and sexism must still be overcome in order that the legacy of Boas, Benedict and Mead, as well as of Obama’s mother, can be fully realized. And there is still a lot to do: Obama’s cabinet includes 4 women and 20 men (16 percent); Angela Merkel’s cabinet at least has 7 women and 10 men (41 percent). There are no open lesbians or gays in either Obama’s or Merkel’s cabinet.
(trans. from German: Joey Horsley)
# | Luise F. Pusch on 24 January 2009 at 03:05 AM •
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